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Volunteers enjoy Christmas Day work

Volunteers Ambrose “Bruce” Blaeser, Leslie Showalter and Jim Nagle greeted diners coming into the Legion Hall on Christmas Day. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

By Sarah Smith

Tasha Maninga has perfected the art of serving when hundreds of people come for Christmas Dinner.

Gravy ladle in one hand and a slotted spoon with corn in the other, she kept the lines moving at the Park Rapids American Legion as she served guests two-handed.

Maninga has been volunteering, along with a legion of other volunteers, for the past 15 years. She must have started as a baby because she looks like a teenager.

“I love doing this,” she laughed. “Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it.”

The full count wasn’t out by press time Friday, but balmy weather pushed the numbers up to the hundreds.

“We’ve done over 200 takeouts,” organizer Lynn Spilman said at noon.

Other workers observed that because the weather was so nice, many people came in person who otherwise would have ordered takeout, like last year when half a foot of snow was on the ground.

Lines of people waited to get into the event and a second line had formed outside the kitchen where people were waiting for takeout orders.

The presence of the same group of volunteers, give or take a few, means the ham and turkey dinner is conducted like a well-oiled machine.

There’s Marcia Plasil, who buses dishes and tables with her Santa headband on, asking tables of people how they enjoyed their meals and wishing them a Merry Christmas.

Bruce Craig mans the dishwasher, not trusting the duty to anyone else. He’s a long-timer, too. Although he takes his duties seriously, he’s smiling throughout his shift, which started at 10 a.m.

Wayne Smetanka is the coffee guy, another perennial pourer of good will and hot beverages.

Three of the cutest seniors you’ve ever seen sit guard at the greeting table, taking people’s money and inviting families to sign the guest book.

Ambrose “Bruce” Blaeser has worked the event for 10 years as a lifetime Legion member. Leslie Showalter has been there five years. Jim Nagle is the new guy, there a year.

“It’s been busy and there’s great food,” he said, rattling off the menu excitedly.

Some of the tired volunteers ate early, so they were able to give rave reviews to the food. Others were waiting until the crowds abated and their duties were done.

They were guaranteed that after their community service, there would be ham, turkey and all the fixings left for them.

After all, they deserved it.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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